Case study

Farm work in the Australian outback — Aimee Ford

Aimee Ford took a gap year in New Zealand and Australia before returning home to study physical geography at university

Where did you travel?

Following two 12-hour flights, my first stop was Auckland, New Zealand where I travelled around both the north and south islands for about six weeks before heading across to Brisbane, Australia.

Having done a week's training in farm work through Oyster Worldwide and then its Australian partner company Visit Oz, they were then able to find me a job on a 25,000 head cattle feedlot about eight hours inland of Brisbane. The majority of my time was spent tagging, vaccinating and mouthing the cattle along with other general farm work.

What were the highlights?

With very little experience in farm work I was keen to learn as much as I could. One thing that helped tremendously was the people around me. Although the majority of the workers were other backpackers, in my department it was all Australians and to be honest I was pleased about this as I really got to see first-hand how they undertake this kind of work.

Their attitude towards their work was pretty similar to ours in the sense that the job had to get done and there were deadlines to be met, but experiencing it in this industry was a whole other ball game and this fascinated me greatly.

And what were the biggest challenges?

Honestly, home sickness. Now I know this might sound cliché but everyone goes through it. It didn't hit me right away, but after the first couple of months it starts to get to you. The moment it hit me was my third or so weekend of work when I realised: I'm out in the middle of nowhere, with no car and foreign people all around me - I am literally stuck here.

And that kind of got to me. It lasted all of about 10 minutes, as I realised I'd rather be stuck here than at home, and when you talk to other people about it, they all felt the same at one point or another.

How will the skills you developed help your career?

Most of my friends who went straight from college to university all say that they wished they could've done what I did, and I always say that they still could. I am still going to university and now I have a much more diverse CV.

It's not just the fact that I spent time working in another country, it also shows how I am willing to try new things and step out of my comfort zone once in a while. My communication skills have greatly improved too. By meeting so many new people along the way, and especially when they don't speak the best of English, you learn how to communicate better and get on with people you might not necessarily speak to otherwise.

What advice would you give others considering a gap year?

Just go for it. Don't be scared of doing something just because no one else wants to do it, or because it might be slightly out of your comfort zone. More often than not it turns out to be the time of your life and you'll never forget it.

Also, don't get hung up about money. Yes it's important to have some backed up 'just in case' but don't go and blow it all on a night out. Save little bits here and there and then you'll be able to afford that bungee jump or that skydive - because those are the moments you'll remember when you get home, rather than just another drunk night out. Squeeze as much as you can into your time away and just go for it.

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